Goodman: Serena’s meltdown was thievery, too

Serena Williams of the U.S. and Naomi Osaka of Japan at the trophy ceremony for the U.S. Open after Osaka defeated Williams in the final at Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York, Sept. 8, 2018. (Chang W. Lee/The New York Times)

Serena Williams put on a deeply disappointing display on Saturday. Her unconstrained anger over an umpire’s call ruined the U.S. Open women’s tennis singles final and completely deflated the stunning victory of a 20-year-old champion who has idolized the legendary 36-year-old icon all her life.

Yes, the chair umpire robbed Serena of a game, which basically put the uphill match out of reach for her. But Williams robbed the newcomer Naomi Osaka of something irreplaceable, the joy she should have had in winning her first Grand Slam and the clamor and attention that should now be washing over this rising star.

And yes, I know that double standards based on sexism exist in tennis, and that Palm Beach Gardens’ most famous resident could be absolutely right that umpire Carlos Ramos was excessively hard on her because of that. That’s the view of the incomparable Billie Jean King, who applauded Serena for standing up for women, and of the six-time U.S. Open champ, Boca Raton’s Chris Evert. That’s how it looked to my wife, watching TV with me as the incredible sequence of events unfolded on Saturday afternoon.

The hard-hitting Washington Post columnist Sally Jenkins laid out that case with blunt authority:

Ramos took what began as a minor infraction and turned it into one of the nastiest and most emotional controversies in the history of tennis, all because he couldn’t take a woman speaking sharply to him.

My reaction was different. I was really stunned that Serena exploded — and then wouldn’t let go. Ramos did start things off by making a questionable call: that the struggling champ had been getting signals from her coach in the stands. Ramos penalized her with a warning.

But Serena immediately turned it into a judgment of her honor and character. “I don’t cheat to win, I’d rather lose,” she pleaded.

Never mind that the infraction was no indictment of her behavior, let alone her character. It was against the coach for gesturing. Ramos might have cooled things down right then if he had pointed that out to her.

Then, a little while later, Serena hit a backhand into the net, an unforced error, and smashed her racket in fury. Sorry, that’s not championship behavior. I hated it when John McEnroe did it, and I hated to see her do it. And she made it no more palatable by dressing it up as an act of sisterhood: Hey, women should have every right to be as obnoxious as the men!

It so happens that Martina Navritalova, no slouch as a warrior for women’s dignity, agrees with me, writing: “We cannot measure ourselves by what we think we should also be able to get away with. In fact, this is the sort of behavior that no one should be engaging in on the court.”

For throwing the racket, Ramos properly charged Williams with a penalty. This second infraction cost her a point.

The context: We were in the second set. Williams had lost the first set, soundly, 6-2. She was losing this one. She wasn’t moving around the court well. Her serve was failing her. And Osaka had nothing but poise. The young Japanese-American-Haitian who got her training in Fort Lauderdale, now on the Arthur Ashe Stadium stage before a worldwide audience, was firm, focused, fluid and hitting with accuracy.

But Williams couldn’t drop it. She approached the chair and demanded an apology — which, c’mon, was never going to happen. Referees don’t do that, no matter the sport.

Then she went completely off the rails with a rant about being a mother and raising her daughter to “stand for what’s right for her.” Serena now seemed to me like someone carrying too heavy a load, not just a tennis champ chasing records for all-time, but a very self-conscious role model out to show that she could bounce back from a maternity leave, be a standard bearer for a new-model kind of strong, black femininity and perform at the highest level of her sport, all at the same time.

Even after the match resumed, and Osaka won another game, to lead 4-3, Williams resumed the argument and called Ramos a “liar” and “a thief.”

That was it. Penalty number three. Which meant Serena lost a full game. Just like that, it was Osaka, 5-3, and needing to win just one more game for the championship trophy.

Was that fair? Not really. Ramos could, and should, have played it cooler. But the real problem was that Williams should have got hold of her emotions before that final outburst.

It seems to me that you can’t win at anything if you don’t put your emotions on hold and focus on the challenge at hand. (Sure, the anger worked for McEnroe, but he is that unusual psychological type, the person who blows up and then feels calm and rejuvenated, no matter how anyone else around them feels.) Most of us can’t function well at all when we’re clouded by rage.

The fact is, bad calls happen. They even happen to great athletes. The job of the athlete is to compartmentalize it. Put it aside. Put yourself back in the match.

Then, after you’ve lost or won, complain and campaign all you want.

Is this hard to do? Hell, yes. I doubt that I could banish my anger from my mind if I thought my integrity had been impugned. I would be beside myself with rage. But I’m not a champion. She is. You only get to be a champion of Serena Williams’ caliber with very strong mental discipline – which she has had to employ for years, given the umpteen obstacles she was forced to overcome to dominate in such a white person’s sport.

Serena, the six-time U.S. Open champion, did not have that discipline on Saturday. In front of a crowd that really, really wanted to see her regain the crown for the first time since 2014.

All this said, I wonder why women’s tennis doesn’t insist on female umpiring. If pro-male bias is so insidious in this sport, then why not take the decision-making out of men’s hands altogether?

Goodman: Trump tells Philadelphia Eagles to stay off his White House lawn

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles with the Vince Lombardi Trophy after winning Super Bowl LII against the New England Patriots on Feb. 4.  (AJ Mast/The New York Times)

When have you ever heard of the president of the United States telling the Super Bowl champions that they’re not welcome at the White House? But, then, when have we had a dis-uniting presidency like Donald Trump’s?

Last night, amid reports that fewer than 10 of the Philadelphia Eagles planned to attend a South Lawn ceremony this afternoon in the team’s honor, Trump abruptly canceled the event.

Trump, keeping up the drum beat he started last fall, said the players “disagree with their president because he insists that they proudly stand for the National Anthem, hand on heart, in honor of the great men and women of our military and the people of our country.”

However, not one player on the Eagles took a knee during the playing of national anthem during this year’s regular season or playoffs.

That fact didn’t stop Fox News from airing images of several Eagles players kneeling, as if to illustrate the president’s point about unpatriotic players. In reality, the players were not kneeling in protest, nor during the national anthem. They were praying.

One of those kneeling Eagles players, Zach Ertz, denounced the Fox News segment as “propaganda.” Teammate Chris Long also slammed the network:

Fox News later apologized for “the error.”

While the Eagles player may not have taken a knee, it’s true that many strongly side with the protests against racial injustice and police brutality that were sparked by former San Francisco QB Colin Kapaernick — which Trump soon twisted into a purported test of patriotism. And many objected to the recently announced NFL policy to fine teams whose players who kneel during the “Star Spangled Banner,” which was followed by Trump saying that if you “don’t stand proudly for the national anthem,” then “maybe you shouldn’t be in the country.”

In Philadelphia, a city that voted 82 percent for Hillary Clinton, many heaped scorn on Trump for his handling of the situation.

Mayor Jim Kenney said that disinviting the Eagles from the White House “only proves that our president is not a true patriot, but a fragile egomaniac obsessed with crowd size and afraid of the embarrassment of throwing a party to which no one wants to attend.”

Philadelphia Daily News sports columnist Marcus Hayes wrote that size-obsessed Trump cancelled the event because, “in the end, he couldn’t stand the thought of another tiny crowd.”

The NFL protests have stirred no end of controversy. On Sunday, the Palm Beach Post Editorial Page devoted its entire letters column to letters taking passionate positions on all sides of the issue.

In my view, Trump has repeatedly and intentionally inflamed the situation by ignoring the players’ intent to protest police shootings of unarmed black men, and painting the players as unpatriotic pariahs.

He has had plenty of opportunity to try to find common ground and heal the divisions among us. A greater man might have sought out the players who balked at coming to the White House, and invited them to sit down together to talk out their differences.

But no. He pouts. He cancels. Telling the team to stay off his White House lawn is just his latest way of saying, “Get that son of a bitch off the field!”

Poll: Did the NFL make the right call regarding kneeling players?

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (Photo by Ronald Martinez / Getty Images)

The National Football League, under pressure from many fans and the man in the White House, announced rules meant to remove the spectacle of players kneeling in protest during the playing of the national anthem.

Team owners voted Wednesday to require all team and league personnel who are on the field during the anthem to “stand and show respect” for the flag and the song. Those who choose not to stand for the anthem can stay in the locker room or away from the field, although each club can adopt its own additional rules.

Rick Christie, editor of the Palm Beach Post’s Editorial Page, says the owners are ordering players to subdue their protests against racial injustice: “In other words: Don’t demonstrate downtown, I have shopping to do. Don’t demonstrate at a sporting event because you take away from my entertainment. Why can’t you all just shut up and dribble?”

What do you think? Take our poll:

Christie: Trump, fans have lost sight of Kaepernick’s real NFL protest

Most Americans have lost sight of why former San Francisco 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick (right) decided to kneel during the national anthem before NFL games. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)

Arguably, the most disappointing thing about the amped-up debate over National Football League players taking a knee during the national anthem is the subject of the debate.

Thousands of American citizens, and not just NFL fans, are taking the time to let it be known that they are offended by players disrespecting the anthem and the nation’s flag by not standing when the anthem is played ahead of a game.

Players and those who support them are being castigated as unpatriotic and disrespectful to our U.S. military that defends the very freedom of speech they are exercising. And, yes, I know the last part sounds hypocritical.

But more importantly, patriotism had nothing to do with the original intent of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s reason for at first sitting on the bench, and later kneeling during the “Star Spangled Banner.”

To be sure, many of the high school, college and NFL players who are taking a knee during the anthem are doing so mainly in support of Kaepernick, not to highlight the issue of race. For NFL players, in particular, last Sunday’s broad defiance had more to do with defending themselves — and the league — from President Donald Trump than calling attention to racial injustice.

RELATED: Trump continues railing against protesting NFL, NBA players

But the president’s comments and tweets fired up the feelings of many Americans who’ve regarded Kaepernick’s protests as an increasingly annoying distraction.

That was reflected in the Post’s Letters to the Editor on Thursday. For example:

Unpatriotic players can count me out

The unpatriotic behavior of football players who have been exposed to brain trauma playing the game is understandable. Condoning this behavior by Miami Dolphins team owner Stephen Ross is not.

This pathetic patronage to players will only accelerate the already declining viewership of NFL fans. I am proud to count myself as a patriotic former fan.

CHARLES LYDAY, BOCA RATON

Lest we forget, however, Kaepernick declined to stand during the anthem last NFL season to draw attention to our nation’s intractable issue of racial injustice. He acted when there seemed to be a rash of shootings (some fatal) of unarmed black men by law enforcement officers around the country.

You may remember that we had one such tragedy right here in Palm Beach County involving former Palm Beach Gardens police officer Nouman Raja, and a Delray Housing Department employee and part-time drummer named Corey Jones. The 31-year-old Jones is dead after Raja pumped six bullets into him. Raja is now headed to trial on, among other things, attempted first-degree murder charges.

You may remember also, at the time, that a number of law enforcement officers involved in these shootings were either not being prosecuted or not being convicted.

Kaepernick, riding a wave of popularity after taking the 49ers to the Super Bowl, was frustrated by this perceived injustice and the lack of discussion in our communities that could help bring an end to it all.

Sure, many Americans know racism and racial inequality exist in this country, but talking about it is a whole other issue. It’s either not their problem because they’re not racist, or black people need to stop complaining and appreciate the fact they live in a great country.

To bring attention to this lack of will to talk about race, Kaepernick refused to stand during the national anthem for a country that would allow any of its citizens to be treated this way. He believed, strongly, that we needed to talk about it.

Was it the best venue for a protest? That’s certainly debatable.

But that shouldn’t be the crux of the debate. From Kaepernick’s standpoint, what good would another press conference do? Who would listen? Wouldn’t most folks be tempted to write him off as just another privileged, million-dollar black athlete who lives better than 90 percent of the people in this country? So who would care?

Because he chose this venue and the national anthem, however, rather than seize on the difficult issue of racial inequality, detractors took the opportunity to wrap themselves in the flag and patriotism.

When President Donald Trump went on his rant at an Alabama rally last week saying “get that son of a b—- off the field” if an NFL player kneels during the anthem, Kaepernick’s concern about racial injustice never passed the president’s lips. From Trump, it was all about disrespecting the flag and our troops. (Yes, this coming from a man who sought, and got five waivers to avoid serving during the Vietnam War.)

U.S. Rep. Brian Mast also weighed in on Facebook criticizing NFL players who kneel in a show of solidarity for Kaepernick. Mast, a Stuart Republican, lost both of his legs while serving in the U.S. Army in Afghanistan. Again, no mention of racial injustice.

RELATED: Rep. Brian Mast: NFL anthem kneelers ‘should already be gone’

I have a sister who is a Marine Corps veteran. I have a brother who is an Army veteran.

I have three uncles who are Army vets; two of them wounded. I also have two uncles who are Navy vets, and a father who is a 20-year Air Force vet. All were poor black kids from the wrong side of the tracks in Stuart, Fla., who served their country honorably during the Vietnam War.

And I have numerous other relatives who have served, or are still serving in different branches of our military.

I don’t know one that agrees with Mast and Trump.

Maybe because they haven’t lost sight of what Kaepernick’s protest was really about.

Christie: Planned statue for former Marlins pitcher irks Post readers

MIAMI – Former Marlins ace Jose Fernandez died last September after crashing his boat while allegedly intoxicated. Two other men also died. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Bronze statues are very often lightning rods for controversy.

It really doesn’t matter whether its a long-dead historical figure, cultural icon or game-changing athlete. There will often be some folks who don’t believe immortalizing a certain individual in bronze is a good idea.

How else, maybe, to explain why it took 70 years for the Los Angeles (formerly Brooklyn) Dodgers to erect a statue of the great Jackie Robinson at Dodger Stadium.

But sometimes they’re right. As is the case with the Miami marlins team owner Jeffrey Loria’s current plan to put a statue of former pitching ace Jose Fernandez at Marlins Park.

Do you agree with Loria’s plan?

Fernandez was a young, charismatic (and dominating) pitcher that added a hometown charm as a Cuban-American. But his death at 24 in a boat crash was caused by unlawful behavior that also cost the lives of two other men. Two other men whose families would have added to their grief, a reminder that the man responsible for their loss is celebrated every day of the Major League Baseball season.

Florida Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria puts on a new hat as he jokes with pitchers and catchers during the first day of spring training. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

For many Post readers, that’s just too much. We published this letter from Jim Anderson of West Palm Beach on Wednesday:

The possibility that a statue may be erected in honor of Jose Fernandez, the Marlin’s late pitcher – who died at a young age – is absurd.

It has been determined that at the time of his death, he had drugs in his system, which may have caused a lack of judgment, resulting in a boating accident, resulting in his own death as well as that of two passengers.

Why would a person be honored for such an action?

Anderson was far from alone in raising that question. Roy Martinez of Jupiter wrote:

I think the idea of erecting a 9-foot statue of Jose Fernandez outside Marlins Park is a terrible idea. Does the fact that Fernandez had a 100-mph fastball overshadow his reckless behavior on the night he and his two friends died? How will those family members feel each time they see that statue?

Playing the game after he died, that was fine. The “16” patch on the Marlins uniforms, also fine. Turning his locker into a “mini-shrine”? Not 100 percent behind that idea.

Public relations being what it is, the statue will probably get built, a big ceremony will mark its unveiling and miniature versions will be available in the Marlins gift shop for a nominal cost.

And Rona Einhorn wrote to Post sports columnist Hal Habib:

I totally  agree  with  your  article  today . I  loved  José . My husband  and  I  attended  the  last  game  he pitched , the  tickets  to the  game  were  a birthday  present  to me . We  sat right  over  the  Marlins  dugout . What  a  game! He even  said  it  was  the  best  game  he pitched.  Then to wake  up  on Sunday  morning  and  hear the  news  I just  couldn’t  believe  it. I  just  don’t  think  that  a large  statue  is the  right  way  to  honor  him.

Thanks  for the article.

After such sentiment is being espoused (maybe more so outside of Miami-Dade County) it will be interesting to see whether Loria shelves his planned monument — at least for now.

Letter: Barbieri doesn’t get it when it comes to the Jupiter powder-puff game

 

Powderpuff (1)If you had any level of dissatisfaction with the School District of Palm Beach County, it may have increased if you read the inane comments of Vice Chairman Frank Barbieri regarding the powder-puff football game at Jupiter High School.

As a former principal, assistant superintendent of schools and college professor, I stand behind Principal Dan Frank, who revealed his common sense and leadership by discontinuing the tradition of the game for safety reasons. A school’s first mission is always the safety and welfare of the students.

Barbieri doesn’t get it, and demonstrated this when he was quoted by The Post’s Sonja Isger: “I don’t understand the rationale that girls can apply for the boys football team, but they can’t have their own game after 50 years of doing this. If the parents want it, the girls want it, it’s safe. I don’t understand why they’re changing a procedure that’s been in place 50 years.”

I’ll tell you why: It was unsafe to begin with.

JAMES L. CASALE, PALM BEACH GARDENS

Letter: County’s priorities not same as Braves’

Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Julio Teheran throws in the first inning against the Houston Astros in a spring training baseball game, Friday, March 25, 2016, in Kissimmee, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Julio Teheran. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

I was reading the April 9 Local section, and two stories caught my eye: one concerning the proposed sales tax (“Gardens officials vote to oppose hike in sales tax”) and the other on building another spring training stadium for baseball (“Braves want county’s largest park”).

Where it got interesting were the numbers. Using the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches as a template, let’s take a look: $113 million from the state bed tax, $50 million from the state (for a $144 million complex, by the way). One of the principals involved estimates 144,000 fans attending over the course of a year.

So we are spending $163 million in state money for 144,000 to watch spring training baseball. I’m sure “jobs creation” would be the rebuttal here, but some will be temporary workers … you know, spring training.

We have a lot more than 144,000 people involved in the school system and using infrastructure in Palm Beach County. So before you ask for more tax money to fix these problems, I suggest people in government start drawing the right priorities.

I’m sure the money is earmarked for certain items. However, like the Atlanta Braves lobbyist said concerning the stadium: It might be time to get “very creative” with our tax dollars, as far as how we’re spending them.

MIKE HUNDLEY, WEST PALM BEACH

Letter: Let the Atlanta Braves be brave and use own money

Letter writer Christine Schwartz, left, and Michael Witherwax, of Lake Worth, right, show their opposition and support to a proposed spring training complex in John Prince Park during a Palm Beach County Commission meeting last Tuesday. RICHARD GRAULICH / PALM BEACH POST
Letter writer Christine Schwartz, left, and Michael Witherwax, of Lake Worth, right, show their opposition and support to a proposed spring training complex in John Prince Park during a Palm Beach County Commission meeting last Tuesday. RICHARD GRAULICH / PALM BEACH POST

It was interesting and yet disingenuous to listen to supporters for the Atlanta Braves telling Palm Beach County commissioners to bring the Braves home, using yet more taxpayer money for yet another spring training stadium (“Braves’ possible return fuels opinions,” Wednesday).

Bring home the Atlanta Braves? Quite an oxymoron. If you remember, they decided to thumb their noses at Palm Beach County in 1997 for a new, better stadium in Orlando. Their Orlando stadium will be 20 years old (heaven forbid, it’s so old); so it’s time for yet another new stadium at taxpayer expense.

Taking a public park from the citizens is not an issue for them or some of our county commissioners.

I’ve heard from commissioners and the stadium supporters of the huge economic impact it will give to the county. This is hyperbole. I have yet to hear or see any actual statistics from independent economists who have studied this issue. Supporters, show us your numbers and who gave them to you.

Before the commissioners approve this welfare for billionaires, perhaps they should consider putting the issue to the taxpayers to vote on. They want to take John Prince Park and give it to billionaires who will only tire of it in 15 to 20 years and move on again. I think the residents of Palm Beach County should vote on this issue, don’t you?

How about the Braves doing something “brave” to help the poor, such as build a new spring training stadium with their own money in economically deprived Belle Glade?

CHRISTINE SCHWARTZ, LOXAHATCHEE

Letter: Luring back Atlanta Braves not in Palm Beach County’s best interest

Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Julio Teheran throws in the first inning against the Houston Astros in a spring training baseball game, Friday, March 25, 2016, in Kissimmee, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Julio Teheran. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Regarding “idea of luring Atlanta Braves” (Thursday): County Commissioner Hal Valeche and his colleagues need to figure out “a creative way” to fund the best schools in the country, and to attend to the maintenance of the innumerable infrastructure needs throughout the county.

We don’t have enough money for these most fundamental functions of local government without raising sales taxes, but we can find “a creative way” to pour tens of millions of dollars into subsidizing baseball millionaires.

The hubris of the suggestion that there is “a creative way” to rig the system for a baseball billionaire boggles the mind and suggests just how isolated not only Mr. Valeche is but also any commissioner who would even entertain the idea.

Indeed, any county commissioner who votes for more subsidies for baseball millionaires should be voted out of office.

MIKE ARNOLD, WEST PALM BEACH